Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Teves 5762 - January 9, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Cornering Arafat

For a long time Israel and its foreign policy seemed to be drifting, essentially swept along by current events in America and Europe. Now it seems that Prime Minister Sharon has maneuvered PA head Yasser Arafat into a corner and a very weak position.

Shamir, Rabin, Netanyahu, Barak -- all seemed to be following essentially the same non-policy, merely reacting to the initiatives of America and Europe in Madrid, Oslo and Washington D.C. Events appeared to flow along, with an internal logic and dynamic of their own and without being strongly influenced by the Israeli government. Rather the forces of world opinion, the machinations of the Palestinian and the oil-rich Arabs and, certainly not least, the surprisingly successful maneuvering of the Israeli Left both in politics and in the world media, all seemed to dictate the basic thrust of events.

Israel under Shamir was forced to attend the Madrid peace conference. Rabin was elected promising a tough approach to security but he soon signed the Oslo agreements and became the leader of the peace camp.

Netanyahu was elected because of dissatisfaction with where those agreements were leading, but he also signed agreements over Hebron and later at the Wye plantation, furthering the process begun at Oslo. Though Netanyahu was personally opposed to the "Peace Process" that began at Oslo, there was little he could do to stop it. Perhaps he won better terms in some cases but the process moved along.

When Ehud Barak was elected more than two and a half years ago, he was prepared to speed up the proceedings, pulling at things from the opposite direction than Netanyahu. He too was unsuccessful at everything he tried (except for the unilateral retreat from Lebanon). Syria and the Palestinians were not prepared for him.

After almost a year in office, Sharon seems to have maneuvered Arafat into a corner. It is an open (and to us uninteresting) question as to exactly how much credit is due to Sharon personally. He has certainly been helped by the change in the U.S. government, since the new Republican administration is not politically or emotionally committed to the handshake between Rabin, Arafat and Clinton on the White House lawn eight years ago. The shocking events of September 11 also profoundly affected the attitude of the entire world to terrorist acts. The intense wave of terror that met the recent American attempt to become more involved in the Middle East by sending General Zinni to our area was also convincing evidence that Arafat was not prepared to end the terror he foments.

For his part, Sharon proclaimed a clear, defensible position, asserting that he will not negotiate under fire and that Arafat is a terrorist. He has declared his position over and over again, and has so far not had to budge from it.

The result is that Arafat has lost a lot of his prestige around the world. Though much of the world is fundamentally more sympathetic to the Palestinians than to the Israelis, Arafat is no longer accepted as a world leader even if he is not yet branded a terrorist who must be eliminated. Moreover, he is basically stuck in Ramallah, where his ability to get press coverage is very limited. (Some say that the reason Sharon refused to let him go to Bethlehem is that he is afraid he would leave the country from there.)

Though the struggle with the Palestinians is far from over, Sharon has achieved a reasonably good position. Yet as chess experts know, position is important but it does not win the game. There is no doubt that there is a vital need for chizuk and prayer without which we cannot expect the siyata deShmaya that undoubtedly remains essential.

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